New Thought Editorials > Full of Grace

 

Winter 2005

Full of Grace

I was intrigued to read recently that the author of the children’s beloved books about the mythical land of Narnia, Christian apologist C. S. Lewis, once wandered into the midst of a scholarly debate concerning what unique contribution Christianity had made among world religions. "Oh, that’s easy," stated Lewis. "It’s grace."

After relating this anecdote, Philip Yancey, editor-at-large for The Christian Century went on to point out that other religions offer ways to earn approval. "Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional." Jesus communicated the notion of God’s grace without analyzing or defining it, describing "a world suffused with God’s grace, where the sun shines on people good and bad, where birds gather seeds gratis, neither plowing not harvesting to earn them . . . Jesus saw grace everywhere." The American Heritage Dictionary defines grace as "divine love and protection bestowed freely on people".

The comparison with sunshine captures the essence of grace: it flows abundantly and constantly from God to us, lighting the way back to our relationship with Ultimate Reality if we have somehow fallen off the path. It’s as if the father keeps a light in the window for the prodigal son in the parable. There is no way that we can earn it or merit it. Nothing that we do can cut us off from it. If we can only recognize it, we, like the mother of Jesus, are full of grace, which can burst forth from within us. But the most amazing thing about grace is that it is 100 percent free.

That hasn’t stopped a lot of silly people from talking about what they call "cheap grace." You can’t get any cheaper than free! What these people, who have been going at it ever since Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans and they started in on him, are hung up about is that they don’t approve of certain others’ behavior and think that those others are getting away with murder by using grace as an excuse for not living by the universal principles known as law. These silly people, who claim to follow Jesus, seem to have forgotten that he also said, "Judge not" (Mt 7:1) and "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Mt 7:16). Sometimes the tares have to be allowed to grow along with the wheat for a while until it is clear which is which.

New Thought is sometimes accused of offering cheap grace, but the taproot of New Thought is the teachings of Jesus. Most New Thoughters probably have a nontraditional Christology (set of beliefs about Jesus), but they accept his teachings, noting that those teachings are in harmony with other ancient wisdom. Jesus said that not "one jot or tittle" (Mt 5:18) should pass from the law, for it is by living in accordance with the law that we prosper in all ways; the law is for our benefit. From the Law of Mind Action ("Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind") on, New Thought emphasizes living by the law. The laws were given by God, but God does not punish; rather, as we often hear in New Thought, we are punished by our sins, not for them. The consequences are built into the laws, just as if in the natural laws we were to violate the law of gravity by jumping off a tall building.

Grace is freely given, freely available to all of us; what we use our free will to do next is up to us. The Law of Mind Action concerns the habitual governing of our thoughts, and it’s one of the most difficult things we’ll ever tackle in life. We can only accomplish it by the grace of God. At this time of year, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus and the beginning of a new year with a fresh start, let’s glory in the grace that, as the old hymn says, "leads us home."